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The Quantum Physics of an Ordinary Morning

Event Type
Electrical and Computer Engineering
1002 Electrical and Computer Engineering Building, 306 North Wright Street, Urbana IL
Apr 13, 2024   10:00 am  
Chad Orzel
Originating Calendar
Illinois ECE Saturday Engineering for Everyone

Summary: We tend to think of quantum mechanics as an abstract and arcane area of physics that only applies in the exotic situations found in physics labs, billion-dollar particle accelerators, or near black holes. In fact, the development of quantum physics has its roots in very mundane, everyday phenomena. In this talk, I’ll describe how quantum physics manifests in the kind of situations you regularly encounter in the course of getting up and getting ready to face the day. From the alarm clock that gets you out of bed, to the heating element in your toaster, to the computer you use to check social media and the telecommunications lines carrying the Internet, everything you do is rooted in quantum physics. 

Bio: Chad Orzel is a professor at Union College in Schenectady, NY, and the author of five books explaining science for non-scientists: How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog (Scribner, 2009) and How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog (Basic, 2012), which explain modern physics through imaginary conversations with Emmy, his German shepherd; Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist (Basic, 2014), on the role of scientific thinking in everyday life; Breakfast with Einstein: The Exotic Physics of an Ordinary Morning (BenBella/ Oneworld 2018), and his latest, A Brief History of Timekeeping (BenBella/Oneworld 2022), which covers the last several thousand years of the science and technology of tracking the passage of time. He has a BA in Physics from Williams College and a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he did his thesis research on collisions of laser-cooled atoms at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the lab of Bill Phillips, who shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics (not for anything Chad did, but it was a fun time to be in that group). He has been blogging about science since 2002, on his own site, at, at Forbes, and on Substack. In 2021, he was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society for his work on public communication of science. He lives in Niskayuna, NY with his wife Kate Nepveu, their two children, and their new dog Charlie the pupper.

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